30/09/2014 16:48 BST | Updated 30/11/2014 05:59 GMT

Simply Cut the Calories And Lose Weight? Wrong!

If you want to lose weight and improve your health, you just have to cut the calories you eat, right? Wrong.

Research shows that replacing processed food with 'real', locally-sourced options can boost your health, and help you to lose weight!

Two foods can have the same number of calories and yet be oh-so-different in how they affect us. There are more and more studies showing that better health and weight-loss is achieved by a diet low in processed foods, refined carbs and sugar, following the 'Mediterranean diet' principles. Those of you lucky enough to have spent some time in the Med this summer will have seen the fruit and veg markets, butchers, fish stalls and cheese shops with customers carefully choosing fresh, real food to cook at home... it is much more the norm than it is in the UK, despite the welcome increase in farmers' markets that we are now seeing.


The only way to be sure is to focus on eating real food that is as close to its natural state as possible. If there is any preparation to be done to turn it into a culinary masterpiece, midweek dinner or on-the-go snack, I would prefer to give it a go myself wherever possible, to avoid all of the unpronounceable extras that feature on the ingredients list of a shop-bought version!

I once heard it said that we shouldn't really bother trying to understand food labelling - because if food needs to have a label so that we know what's in it, we shouldn't be buying it anyway!

Well, for most of us that is uber-virtuous! I would be the first to congratulate anyone who could live like that and still have time to hold down a job, juggle a family or have any sort of life outside the kitchen!

So, we do have to rely on prepared food on many occasions - however, we also need to be as sure as possible that the food we are getting has been sourced and prepared with the same care that we would use ourselves.

Local producers are usually a good starting point and keep giving us good quality, nutritious food. We have to be prepared to pay a bit more for it - because sourcing quality ingredients and taking care in production needs, time and money. As a nation we eat far more than we need anyway and throw away a whopping 15million tonnes of food a year! Better to shop more selectively, buy less and eat a smaller amount of good quality real food. And I think you can really taste the difference when food is produced with passion!

I mentioned that food that needs labels should be avoided where possible, but knowing full how difficult that is, this App may be of interest to those of you who struggle to understand food labelling. Is it just me who thinks that many of these labels are specifically designed to confuse you into thinking that something is healthier than it actually is?

FoodSwitch is a free app for smartphones, first developed in Australia, to help you find out what's in the food you're eating, so you can make simple switches to healthier options. FoodSwitch allows you to scan the barcodes of your food and drinks products and instantly see whether they are high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) in fat, saturates, sugars and salt per 100g. It also searches the database for similar but healthier alternatives, making it easier than ever to switch to healthier food choices.

So... despite how it seems, with a wealth of local producers across the country and apps at our fingertips, eating unprocessed foods is becoming as convenient as eating processed foods - with the additional advantage of offering us a much healthier and more sustainable route to weight management. Vavista.com features regular articles on health and weight related issues.